“The 1970s, The Goatman, and Me” By Sheri White
The 70s were a scary time to be a kid. It was an era of urban legends, UFO sightings, Bigfoot, and demon possessions.
In my town, our urban legend was the Goatman. Half-man, half-goat (obviously), he lived in a derelict shack in the woods behind my elementary school. According to those who had “seen” this creature (usually older kids), it had the head and chest of a man and the body and four legs of a goat. And he would kill you if he caught you.
How he was supposed to accomplish this, and why he wanted to were never made clear. I was only in first grade when I became aware of the legend, and the terror of it consumed me. I would look out the windows of my classroom while Mrs. Layden taught us how to add and subtract, dreading the moment I’d see Goatman staring back at me through the trees. Even at home I’d peek around my bedroom window curtain to make sure he wasn’t clip-clopping down my street, looking for me.
So you’d think adults would try calming Goatman fears among the town children. I wasn’t the only scared little kid. But instead, things got totally out of control on Halloween. I was a Brownie Girl Scout, and our troop leader threw us a party after school. When you think of a party for little girls, you usually picture punch and cookies with a craft or game afterwards. But again, this was 1971, and we were not coddled.
To start the party, we were led on a hike through the woods and shown a crappy, burned-out shed. “That’s where the Goatman lived, but someone burned his house down, and now he’s really mad. He’s been looking for whoever did it. We’d better go back to the school before he finds us here!”
That was the last place I wanted to be – I was petrified and just wanted to go home! But we trudged back to the classroom for our snack.
A little later, the requisite punch and cookies had been served, and we girls were talking and eating when there was a loud banging on one of the windows. I turned around, and to my complete horror, saw a twisted, disfigured face press against the glass. Someone shrieked “It’s the Goatman!”
That just confirmed what I already knew. I jumped up from my chair, cookie crumbs flying, flew out the door and ran home screaming and crying. Remember, I was only six years old, as were the other girls. It was pretty fucked up for the leaders – who were moms – to play such a terrifying prank on trusting little girls in their care.
Today, such a prank would never happen, at least in an elementary school. Parents would be up-in-arms, threatening law suits and consequences. Back then, though? I remember the leaders laughing their asses off as I ran out the door. None of the adults followed me; I was left to get home by myself, and it was a 15-minute walk (I ran so fast, I think I made it home in ten). My mother expressed surprise at seeing me come through the front door earlier than expected, but wasn’t concerned about that or the reason why.
I was traumatized for a long time after that. I look back on it somewhat fondly now, though. A certain movie in 1978 told us everyone is entitled to at least one good scare on Halloween – and that was the first of many for me.
Sheri White lives in Maryland with her family. She’s a mom to three girls, ages 28, 22, and 19, and has instilled a love of all things scary in them as well. She plans to pass this love of horror to her granddaughter when she’s old enough. Her husband Chris is very understanding, if a little wary at times.
In addition to reading and writing horror, she’s also the editor of Morpheus Tales magazine.
Sheri’s fiction has been published in many small press magazines and anthologies.